Review – A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

Walker Books Ltd., 2011

Just after midnight, Conor wakes to find a monster outside his window, and it is not the monster he was expecting. Ever since his mother fell sick, he’s had the same terrible nightmare, over and over again, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…but this monster inhabits the yew tree that overlooks Conor’s house. It doesn’t want to eat Conor, or rend him limb from limb. What it wants is something he finds much more frightening: it wants him to tell the truth.

This novel was inspired by an original idea by Siobhan Dowd, who died before she could write it herself and afterwards it was taken up by Patrick Ness. The library copy I have is shelved in the junior fiction, and the style of writing mostly does feel aimed at a younger audience. The content, though, is not easy to think about at any age. This is a sad, fierce story, circuitous yet unflinching, enhanced by Jim Kay’s smoky, sinister illustrations. I can’t say I liked it – I’m not sure it’s really the sort of story you like – but it’s well and powerfully told.